Posted: 7:00 am Wednesday, September 5th, 2012
By Jason Schultz
For the second time in the last four months the Mary and Robert Pew Foundation is writing the Palm Beach County School District a big check so students at some of the district’s poorest high schools can study high tech biology.
The school board is expected to vote today on whether to accept a $125,000 three-year grant from the charitable education foundation that would pay to train the staff and buy supplies needed to revitalize Palm Beach Lakes High School’s floundering biotech choice academy.
According to a school district report Palm Beach Lakes’ biotech program started several years ago with teachers trained by the Scripps Research Institute and the University of Florida in the field but those initial teachers have left and there is one one teacher at the high school teaching all four levels of the biotech classes as well as other biology classes. Two teachers at the school have agreed to participate in teaching the biotech program but both need more training, according to the report.
The grant would pay a “master teacher” at Seminole Ridge High School, Carolyn Slygh, to mentor and train for at least four hours a week using the Adobe Connect and Distance Learning Lab programs over the Internet to help them learn and develop the biotech program. Slygh developed the biotech program curriculum at Seminole Ridge.
According to the report the grant will also pay for much of the lab supplies and other materials needed for the biotech classes and the vendor the district buys from, Sargent-Welch, has a grant matching program that could also kick in some more funding in the future.
The grant’s performance will be measured by several goals including whether the students at the high school can exceed the district proficiency average by at least 10 percent on Biology and Algebra I end of course tests and whether the number of students in the biotech program doubles in the next five years.
This is the second big biology grant the Pew Foundation has made to high schools recently. In June they gave Boynton Beach High School $79,000 for a nanobiology program that has the school buying high tech equipment like electron microscopes for students to use in biology classes at that high school.
Palm Beach Lakes and Boynton High were the two emptiest public high schools in the county last year with both having less than two thirds of their student capacity being utilized according to last fall’s student count. Boynton Beach had 66 percent of its students qualify for free and reduced price lunch based on low income last year while Palm Beach Lakes had 74 percent of its students qualify for free and reduced price lunch.
About the Author
Occupation: Reporter My sports/favorite activities: Sprint triathlons (swimming, biking, running), kayaking, weight training, Bikram yoga, racquetball. Goal: Eventually I’d like to get a time under one hour on sprint triathlons, but I have a ways to go to get there. Also I am trying to build up endurance to compete in the Olympic distance Luray Triathlon in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia in August of 2010. (I grew up in Luray, Va.) When I'm not training: My free time lately has been spent slowly fixing up my apartment, kayaking, playing poker and traveling. I also enjoy scuba diving, sky diving, hiking and whitewater rafting. I used to surf in California and eventually want to start learning again in Florida. I'm 33, single with no children and live in Palm Springs. Biggest challenge: My biggest challenges are working at night, and the heat during the summer. I don’t get home until after midnight, which makes it hard to get out of bed and train at 6 a.m. the next morning. By 9 a.m., however, it is already so hot and humid that most outdoor training feels like I’m dying and the ocean is already getting choppy and hard to swim in, if there is any wind. What's worked for me: I did the FAU triathlon in April with a time of 1:14:31, which is not bad for a first timer but shows I still have a long way to go. I have also kayaked most of the Intracoastal in Martin and Palm Beach counties and found Martin is much nicer. Favorite reward: My favorite reward on the weekends is playing poker and drinking good beer after a long day of training. Favorite online fitness resources: I don’t really read many blogs except the Survivorman video blog. Some other good web sites are www.beginnertriathlete.com, www.hobesoundsurf.com, www.kayakjeff.com, www.bikramwpb.com (Bikram Yoga), www.multirace.com and www.skydivefl.com.